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What women want: Understanding women’s philanthropic giving

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[Editor’s note: This article was provided by Blackbaud, a maker of fundraising software. Blackbaud is a PJ business partner.]

Katherine Swank

Katherine Swank

Katherine Swank

Women, as a group, are increasingly impacting fundraising efforts in the U.S.; however, their philanthropic objectives can differ significantly from men’s.

Women tend to focus on specific sectors and want greater accountability for their gifts.

On the whole, women want to create new solutions, seek more contact and control, and want to be kept informed of the results from their giving.

Many also seek social networks within the organizations that interest them.

If women make up a significant portion of your donor base, you may need to change the way you speak with them and start listening for their direction.

The topic of women in philanthropy is finally gaining its due study. Several books and a growing number of philanthropic institutes have helped us to see a clearer picture.

Reinventing Fundraising, Realizing the Potential of Women’s Philanthropy, by Sondra Shaw-Hardy and Martha Taylor, focuses on the “Six C’s” of women’s motivation for giving:

* Create new solutions to old problems.

* Use their financial power to effect change rather than to preserve the status quo.

* Make a commitment (or commit) to the organization’s vision.

* Enjoy a personal connection with the institution or organization.

* Collaborate and work with others as part of a larger effort.

* Celebrate.

In concert with these motivations, women are seeking greater control of the resources they have produced and therefore expect greater accountability from the nonprofit organizations that they support.

Be transparent in your communications.

Report your results proudly and frequently.

Personalize your communications so that your donors get a greater understanding of the impact of their individual gift.

Women make charitable gifts to a variety of causes, but research shows the majority is designated for the needs of children, opportunities for women, education and health issues.

They also support causes that provide economic opportunities for all, promote diversity, and support the arts and the environment.

These gifts mostly go to support grassroots nonprofits or are restricted to grassroots programs if the gift is given to a larger or national-level organization.

It’s not just affluent women who make gifts, however. Women with annual incomes of less than $10,000, who are often homemakers with children at home, give an astounding 5.4 percent of their adjusted gross income to charity.

Many charitable organizations either have misperceptions about female donors or they have decided just to do things the way they always have – which many will admit is no longer working.

Women increasingly choose charitable interests separate and distinct from their spouse or family and it would be wise to approach them, not as part of a couple or a unit, but as an individual donor.

It’s time to identify and understand your female constituency, to speak to them differently, to ask for their involvement both financial and with their time and to consider them as one of the most important components of your donor base.


Katherine Swank, J.D., is a consultant at Target Analytics, a Blackbaud Company.

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